Friday, December 2, 2011

Billboard Top Songs on Country Radio - #20-16

Even though I didn't finish the reviews for the rest of the top 30 last week, numbers 30 through 21 are virtually the same so I'll just pick up right where I left off. I'll start, however, with the lone two additions at #30 and 29:

 30. "Alone With You" - Jake Owen - This is a song about being addicted to a girl. And I really like it. The song, not being addicted to a girl (well, that's true most of the time). There is no reasonable answer to the question (and lyric), "Why are you the one that I want?" He just does. Said girl apparently cannot make up her mind about said addiction-addled guy, or at least she pretends she can't as to keep him both close and at a distance at the same time. Owen's vocal melody here sounds quite unique for country radio, and you can really sense the emotion in his voice, especially at the end of the song when he almost shouts "Don't say you love me 'cause you know you're gonna love me and leave." Damn. I'm not up to par with all of my country songwriters yet, but Shane McAnally, J.T. Harding, and Catt Gravitt really put together a foundation that Owen could build upon with his strong vocal chops. While the production is pretty standard fare, the song is stone cold country heartbreak in lyrical content, and its uniqueness and vocal performance will make it stand out. Well done, Mr. Owen. (An aside regarding the music video -- and, seeing as there is a gorgeous half-naked woman throughout it, calling this a complaint would be a bit over the top, but: the video essentially reduces this song to being about nothing than a series of addictive booty calls. Had I never seen the video, that would probably not have been high on my list of ways this song could be interpreted. Lyrics such as the above mentioned "you'll just love me and leave me", "I don't see you laugh, you don't call me back, but you kiss me when you're drunk", and "Don't say it doesn't matter 'cause it's gonna matter to me" seem to suggest that something deeper and a little more complex is going on here. Okay, there is that line "Your body's like a pill I shouldn't take." But you should take that line and interpret it within the lyrical context of the rest of the song [see what I did th.....nevermind]. Anyway, the video is sexy, as is the girl in it, and Owen with his overdone mugging and half heartbroken/menacing looks at the camera [blame the director or the record label, not him] I'm sure had a delightful time making it. I just don't think it serves the story of the song well. That's all. Now I'm going to go watch it again to check out that girl.)

 29. "Love's Gonna Make It Alright" - George Strait - I haven't had the chance to listen to his Here For A Good Time album all the way through yet, but this song starts it out in a classically Strait feel-good way. The king of country radio sings about the all-encompassing power of love to bring us back around to the point of looking at our lot in life with hope again. He takes his woman out on the town and, as could be predicted, they end up watching the sun come up through their bedroom window. This standard country theme is brought to life by a truly upbeat melody that includes a happy fiddle and a little steel guitar lick that pops up from time to time. I wasn't crazy about "Here For A Good Time" (the single), but I didn't dislike it either; there is no apathy when it comes to "Love's Gonna Make It Alright," a song much needed on the airwaves for the long and weary months of winter that lie ahead. Even if you don't have a "love" to make it alright, this song will.

20. "Home" - Dierks Bentley - Already reviewed. See post below.

19. "Storm Warning" - Hunter Hayes - I was fully prepared to hate this song; the cover for his album just looks like he is begging to be accepted as the male equivalent to Taylor Swift. And maybe he is, and maybe that isn't such an awful thing. Now Swift ain't my cup of tea, but I certainly respect the fact that she writes her own music, and often when one of her songs comes on the radio I find myself thinking, "Wow, that is actually not too bad." ("Sparks Fly," the song, I admittedly like a lot.) She has a real gift for melody, and it seems so does Hunter Hayes. He co-wrote this song (also worth mentioning is that he had a hand it writing every song on his debut album); there are some clever lyrics to be found and the melody is decent but not good enough to stand out. On the whole, it's a promising first single, and no doubt this kid is talented, but it's all just a little to cutesy-sounding for me, sort of like Swift's "Love Story." And personally, it's a little hard to relate to someone born seven years after me who is dsinging about the humorous pitfalls that love can take. But I probably won't change the station the first couple times I hear this on the radio. Here's to hoping his voice matures (read: deepens, or at least starts to sound fuller) as does the overall production and sound of his songs. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of the young Mr. Hayes.

18. "I'm Gonna Love You Through It" - Martina McBride - I'm just going to say it: Martina McBride just doesn't do much for me anymore. Maybe it's because her recent output of songs are very topical (see: "Teenage Daughters" - didn't much care for that tune). Looking (pretty far) back, "Independence Day" and "Wild Angels" are my two favorite songs of hers. Obviously, she deserves the respect she gets and her place on country radio, what with her gifted voice and longevity of her presence in the format, I just haven't really enjoyed much of her recent output. Truth be told, "I'm Gonna Love You Through It" is probably my favorite single of hers in recent years, but I think that's more because of it's message and for the fact that it is no doubt touching lives that have been touched by the terrible disease of cancer. The declaration of loving somebody through something so horrible, no matter the outcome, is to be admired. I can see why this has become such a popular song, I just do not connect to it in the slightest on a personal level. With that said, it is unquestionably a good thing that songs like this exist in the world.

17. "I Got Nothin'" - Darius Rucker - I believe this is Mr. Rucker's finest single release since the last two singles from his debut album, "Alright" and "History in the Making." I just didn't care much for "Come Back Song" or "This." "I Got Nothin'" is about a couple whose love has died; they want nothing more than to rekindle it, but the man (the narrator; makes sense) simply cannot find the words to even begin that process no matter how much he prays to come up with something. For better or worse, it is a relationship that is doomed to not be revived. Perhaps nothing "happened" that caused the relationship to get to this point, just the slow and subtle burn of time, and time just was not on their side. Every element in this song compliments the other elements nicely; the production, melody, and lyric really convey the depth of the couple's devastation. It is quite emotional. Rucker's delivery of the following verse is especially heartfelt: "I watch you pack your things, you look down at your ring, slowly slip it off and then lay it on our bed. Maybe I should pick it up and get down on my knees, tell you what you want to hear, and give you what you need." Bravely, the ending does not shy away from the bleakness, it does not offer that tiny ray of hope so desperately needed; she is leaving, that is that, and he says "If you go, I got nothin'." We are meant to believe that she is indeed gone, and that "I got nothin'" has truly become the narrator's truth. Such is the feeling, sometimes, of life. This song entered the charts on June 4th and has been a bit of a slow burn getting up to #17. That's not hard to believe seeing as it's not an easy listen, especially for couples literally going through what the songs speaks to; yet it is an immensely listenable song because it can be felt. Nicely done by Rucker and co-writer Clay Mills.

16. "One More Drinkin' Song" - Jerrod Niemann - This truly is just another drinkin' song. Not that that's a bad thing, it just brings nothing new to the table (or to the bar, as it were). It's Niemann's most traditional sounding single thus far, and would certainly fit nicely on a mix between Alan Jackson's "It's Five O'Clock Somwhere", Garth Brooks' "Friends In Low Places", and Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup", though it doesn't quite reach those heights (or it were). Plus, singing the word "margadaquiriscrewalottaonthebeach" has got to be ten tons of fun to sing when one is well past the point of sobriety. Hell, the drunken back-up singers from "Friends In Low Places" even make an appearance, at one point shouting everyone's goal for the night, "blanking out" Niemann in the process. Naughty guys and gals. Overall, the song is certainly pleasant and easy enough on the ears to sing along to. Or to get-hopped-up-and-make-some-bad-decisions to (you it were).

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